Minamoto no Yoshitsune
Historical Figure
Nationality: Japan
Date of Birth: c. 1159
Date of Death: 1189
Cause of Death: Seppuku
Occupation: Soldier, mercenary
Relatives: Minamoto no Yoritomo
Minamoto no Tomonaga
Minamoto no Noriyori (brothers)
House: Minamoto
Fictional Appearances:
Metafictional Fantasy
Type of Appearance: Direct

Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源 義経, c. 1159 – June 15, 1189) was a military commander of the Minamoto clan of Japan in the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. During the Genpei War, he led a series of battles which toppled the Ise-Heishi branch of the Taira clan, helping his half-brother Yoritomo consolidate power. He is considered one of the greatest and the most popular warriors of his era, and one of the most famous samurai fighters in the history of Japan.

After crossing his half-brother, Yoshitsune lived as an outlaw. He was joined by several retainers, including the revered warrior Benkei. Yoshitsune and Benkei died near Koromogawa in 1189. Surrounded by thousands of warriors loyal to Yoritomo, Yoshitsune retired to a nearby castle to commit seppuku, while Benkei held off the attackers. He single-handed slew several before the attackers decided to use arrows to kill him. They then collected Yoshitsune's head and sent it Yoritomo.

Later rumors claimed that Yoshitsune escaped to Hokkaido and lived out his life under an alias. A more fanciful and discredited legend has Yoshitsune escaping to the Asian mainland and becoming Temujin, Genghis Khan.

Minamoto no Yoshitsune in "Character"[]

Steve, a fictional character who understood he was fictional, was sent back in time to medieval Japan by his author. His mind inhabited the body of the legendary Benkei just prior to Benkei becoming Minamoto Yoshitsune's[1] retainer.

Steven first encountered Yoshitsune just after he woke up in the past. Yoshitsune addressed Steve as "Benkei", and thanked him for not dueling in a monastery the night before. Steve responded (in Japanese) as that he (Benkei) had won nine hundred ninety-nine duels, and that Minamoto would be the thousandth.

Minamoto responded by quoting the Bible's warnings against pride. Steve realized the author needed to do research. The duel commenced, with Steve/Benkei winning, and proclaiming himself the king of the world. Privately, Steve wondered why he was quoting from a film from a decade after his "home" time.

However, the scene changed, and Steve found himself facing off against Minamoto Yoshitsune again, as the author was rewrote the scene, after completing additional research. This time, Minamoto Yoshitsune did not quote from the Bible. Moreover, during this version of the duel, Minamoto had two tengu to help him. The fight was difficult, and even though he was able to get rid of one of the tengu, Steve realized that the author had done his homework this time, and had discovered that Benkei actually lost the first duel with Minamoto. As Steve had no desire to die, he decided to yield to his superior opponent. After confirming that Steve/Benkei did indeed surrender, Minamoto Yoshitsune compelled Steve/Benekei's service, and Steve agreed.

Steve/Benkei initiated another duel a few days later, and Minamoto won again. Steve/Benkei remained faithful from then on. Steve continued to observe the author's shortcomings as the story progressed. It was during this time that Yoshitsune's half-brother, Minamoto Yoritomo became shogun and reduced the Emperor to a figurehead. Unfortunately, Yoritomo was suspicious of everyone, including his half-brother, and so ordered Yoshitune's death.

While Steve lived a long time as Benkei, he didn't narrate all of those adventures. For one thing, he was hurt in some of those scenes. For another, he continued to age, with the instantaneous memories to go with the aging process. He was also rewritten and revised by the author. Steve/Benkei and Yoshitune fled Kyoto and become soldiers of fortune. Steve bragged about the adventures, finally sharing one instance when the two dress up as yamabushi to get past one of Yoritomo's checkpoints. When one of the guards realized who Yoshitune was, Steve called Yoshitune an idiot and hit him hard. The guard's colleague pointed out that no man of lower rank would hit a noble like Minamoto Yoshitune. Steve and Yoshitune escaped.

After more adventures, Steve could feel the end of the story coming. He and Yoshitune arrived at the Koromogawa with Yoritomo's men following behind. Realizing they were trapped, Yoshitune asked Steve/Benkei to buy him some time to commit seppuku. As Benkei, Steve fought savagely, killing and maiming several attacking samurai, until finally he was feathered with arrows. One arrow hit Benkei right between the eyes.

Suddenly Steve became an omniscient observer. The samurai approached Benkei's body, which was still standing. Steve looked for Yoshitune's body, but didn't see it. Steve knew that no one took it. Now omniscient, Steve knew the story that Minamoto Yoshitsune escaped to the Asian mainland and became Genghis Khan. However, Steve didn't know for sure that was what happened, and the story ended before he could learn for sure.[2]


  1. Turtledove does not use "no" as part of Yoshitune's name.
  2. Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2021